In 2017, the Eagle Creek fire burned 50,000 acres of the Columbia River Gorge. Many people struggling to reckon with the destruction turned to the language of religion to express their grief: “The Gorge is my church.” In the Pacific Northwest, devotion to the outdoors is a dominant faith. But access to the outdoors—to our church—isn’t open equally to all. Whether we feel safe and welcome outside is affected by race, gender, wealth, and ability. These factors also affect whether we can choose to seek refuge in the outdoors and whether we are forced to find shelter outside. The ongoing pandemic has made these inequities clearer.
With the virus waiting outside our doors, turning inward to protect our own is a natural impulse. But we have seen, over and over again, surprising numbers of people turning outward, expanding their sense of who they consider one of their own by helping their neighbors through mutual aid groups, showing up to protest racial injustice, and imagining new ways of living together.
In this issue, we’ve taken an expansive view of what it means to be outside. In addition to stories about outdoor recreation and who gets to enjoy it, you’ll find stories of living outside, on city streets and amid the woods; stories about leaving the places we feel safe for work and about making new spaces outside the mainstream. And you’ll find many stories from Oregonians, in their own words, about their experiences of being outside in this devastating and hopeful time.
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